Saturday, May 20, 2017

Asian Art Deco #4A: The Musician Prints of Elyse Ashe Lord

The English artist Elyse Ashe Lord (1885-1971) was, without question, the mother of Asian Art Deco prints.  No one else was as successful, or as prolific, as she was in that genre and her work no doubt inspired printmakers such as Dorsey Potter Tyson, Geoffrey Sneyd Garnier, and Robert Herdman-Smith to jump on her bandwagon.  However, despite her popularity, very little is known about her personal life.  Although Malcolm Salaman devoted the first volume in his Masters of the Colour Print series to her in 1928, other than a few short magazine or dealer profiles, no one has since published a critical assessment of her life and work, let alone compiled a catalog raisonné for her considerable print output.

Before the Dance (pre-1929) by Elyse Lord
(color etching)

Most online summaries of Lord’s life claim that her early years are shrouded in mystery.  However, buried throughout Gladys Engel Lang and Kurt Lang’s book, Etched In Memory: The Building and Survival of Artistic Reputation (University of North Carolina Press 1990), are tantalizingly researched tidbits to fill in some of the interstices of Lord’s life.  Lord was born Elise Müller in 1885, and not 1895 or 1900 as tends to be usually reported.  The Langs report that she claimed to have married at 18, but that her marriage certificate gives her age as 23 (c. 1908).  Growing hostilities between England and Germany around this time caused many people to hide their German parentage and the Langs say that Lord was no exception.  I’ve independently documented that she married the Reverend Thomas Ashe Lord, a clerk in Holy Orders and a schoolmaster.  So it is clear that, by changing the spelling of her first name and adopting the middle and last names of her husband, her German roots were completely hidden from view.

Kiteflying (1926) by Elyse Lord
(color etching)

Lord attended Heatherley’s School of Art in Chelsea, London at some point prior to the Great War.  Being one of the few art colleges in Britain that focuses on portraiture, figurative painting, printmaking, and illustration, she probably learned the rudiments of printmaking there.  Ernest Shepard, the illustrator of Winnie the Pooh had attended Heatherley’s in 1897 and he left his etching press at Heatherley’s (where it was ultimately acquired by the etcher and illustrator Cecil Leslie sometime after WWI).

Prayer (1926) by Elyse Lord
(color etching with aquatint)

It has been speculated that the extensive British Museum exhibition in 1914 of Chinese paintings initiated Lord’s interest in Chinese art.  Chinese tapestries were another influence.  Lord, however, would herself claim that the source of much of her inspiration were the translations of Chinese poetry by Arthur Waley.  Waley was appointed Assistant Keeper of Oriental Prints and Manuscripts at the British Museum in 1913, a post he held until 1929.   Like Lord, he never travelled to the Far East, and he also changed his surname (Schloss) to avoid the rising anti-German prejudice of the time.  While I’m not aware of any hard evidence that the pair ever met, I would not be surprised to learn that their paths crossed from time to time in the British Museum’s Reading Room.

K'o ssu [Bird with Rotting Fruit] by Elyse Lord
(color etching)
 
From 1915 to at least 1921, Lord’s principle medium was painting, especially watercolors and paintings on wood panel.  Her first watercolor exhibition allegedly took place in 1919.  In November 1921, she had a two week exhibition of her output of the prior six years at the Brook Street Gallery in London.  She is also said to have been a book illustrator, something for which her training at Heatherly’s would have prepared her, for works such as The Arabian Nights which were published by Alexander Reid.  Try as I might, however, I have yet to locate any edition of The Arabian Nights or any other book that contains illustrations by Lord, although etchings and paintings illustrating some of the Arabian Nights stories are known to exit.  Some of her other works appear to be costume or set designs, although I have yet to associate them with any specific play, opera, or ballet.

 Aladdin by Elyse Lord
Courtesy of Sarah Colegrave Fine Art
(watercolour and bodycolor over pen and ink with gold paint and applied glass stone)

Lord was elected a full member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1922, and her first color prints were issued and shown by the Fine Arts Society in Bond Street, London, in the spring of 1923.  During the course of her career, she would also exhibit her prints and paintings in the U.K. at the Royal Academy, the Royal Cambrian Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Society of Artists (Birmingham), the Walker Gallery (Liverpool), the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, the Goupel Gallery, the Leferve Gallery, and the Redfern Gallery, among others.  Lord would additionally exhibit at the Paris Salon, where she won a silver medal, and with the Chicago Society of Etchers, and she was also a member of the Society of Graver-Printers in Colour.  Exhibition records for the 1920s through the mid-1930s list her as living in Sidcup, Foots Cray, and Bexley, all in the northwest Kent part of Greater London.

Springtime at Loyang No. 3 (1928) by Elyse Lord
Courtesy of the New England Art Exchange
(color etching)

Lord’s early prints were either drypoints colored by hand or aquatints and evidently were self-published.  At some point, however, she started to combine the technique of drypoint with woodblock color printing.   Lord used the drypoint plate design in a manner similar to how the Japanese used the keyblock in multi-block color printing.  Colors would then be added by over-printing the drypoint design using colored-inked woodblocks, as shown in this unique series of progressive proofs that I acquired from Michael Campbell at Campbell Fine Art.

  Javanese Puppet by Elyse Lord
 Personal Collection (thanks to Campbell Fine Art)
(L: pencil drawing; R: trial proof drypoint etching printed in black ink)

  Javanese Puppet by Elyse Lord
 Personal Collection (thanks to Campbell Fine Art)
(L: trial proof drypoint etching printed in sanguine ink;
R: drypoint etching overprinted in pink, green, orange, and yellow inks with woodblocks)

China, however, was hardly Lord’s only inspiration.   She also drew upon the art and subject matter of Persia, India, Tibet, Thailand, Japan, and Java, in addition to England, Spain, and Greece.  Her later work becomes more and more abstract, suggesting that she might have become influenced by cubist painters such as Picasso.

Indian Dance by Elyse Lord
(color etching)

From 1928 to 1931, Lord’s prints were published by Alex. Reid and Lefevre (who had exhibited and sold her earlier etchings) .  From 1931 to 1933, they were published by Walter Bull and Sanders, Ltd., and thereafter by H.C. Dickins.  Lord would personally supervise the printing of her plates, keeping the first ten proof impressions for herself.   Her prints were generally issued in editions of 75 or 100, although her earliest prints tended to be printed in editions of 50 or less.  They typically sold in their day for between 5 and 10 guineas (roughly £300-600 by today’s standards).

Oxford (1940) by Elyse Lord
Courtesy of Gerrish Fine Art
(watercolor and pencil)

At some point, the Lords moved to Thorns Boars Hill, three miles south of Oxford, in Berkshire (ceded in 1974 to Oxfordshire).  Perhaps Reverend Lord acquired a teaching position in the area.   Some of Lord’s late prints would feature fanciful depictions of the denizens of Oxford.    Reverend Lord died at age 66 in 1943 and was buried at St. Leonard in nearby Sunningwell.  At the time of his death, his heirs were listed as Elyse Ashe Lord and Ellen Charlotte Lord (his sister?)  Elyse Lord would remain in the area for the rest of her life, where she was described as a reclusive and wealthy widow.  It is unclear if she made any prints after WWII, and she died in Abingdon in 1971 at age 86.   Lord’s estate of unsold prints and paintings was left to her last publisher, H.C. Dickins.  One occasionally encounters prints that are not signed by Lord in cursive but which bear the designation “Print by Elyse Lord” in block letters.  My surmise is that these leftover estate prints posthumously sold by H.C. Dickins.

Close-up of estate signature

As I indicated at the outset, there is as yet no catalog raisonné for Lord’s prints, and her generally-known print output is far too large to be listed in one or even a couple of blog posts.  Indeed, I conservatively estimate that she designed more than 350 prints over the course of her career, and the actual number is probably closer to 400 or more prints.  Part of the problem in creating such a catalog is that most of her prints tend not to be dated.  Some can be dated from exhibition records or from their inclusion in Fine Prints of the Year, and others can be at least approximately dated if the publisher is known, but the remainder can only be guessed at.  Titles for Lord’s prints can also be problematic.   They are often titled in pencil, not near the plate image where her signature and edition size usually appeal, but instead at the bottom lower edge or right corner of the sheet.  As a result, such titles are often obscured when framed.  Exhibition records and reviews can be of some assistance, but dealer and auction house titles are, more often than not, merely descriptive and need to be taken with a grain of salt.   Occasionally, framed copies of Lord’s prints turn up with labels pasted on the back of the frames.  These have the potential to be a more reliable indicator of Lord’s intended title, particularly if they were based on information that came from one of Lord’s publishers. 

Little Princess by Elyse Lord
(color etching)

Under the circumstances, organization of a Lord catalog based on subject matter, rather than by date or title, makes the most sense.  So, as a preliminary step towards creating an on-line catalog of Lord’s prints, I have decided to focus this inaugural post on her prints of musicians.  Unless otherwise indicated, all of the following are colored etchings (usually drypoints) with color applied by hand or with woodblocks, although some of the earlier designs might have been produced as aquatints.

M001 - Artful
Edition Unknown

M002 - Banjo
Edition of 75
Note: Part of series that includes Bongoes and Flute.

M003 - Bassons
Edition of 75

M004 - Biwa Player
Edition of 75

M005 - Bongoes
Edition of 75
Note: Part of a series that include Banjo and Flute.

M006 - Concert (pre-1929)
Edition of 75
Note: Exhibited at the Lefevre Galleries, Nov-Dec 1928 along with the original drawing on silk.

M007 - Cymbal Player (aka Young Girl with Cymbals)
Courtesy of the New England Art Exchange
Edition of 75

M008 - Cymbals (pre-1929)
Edition of 100
Note: Exhibited at the Lefevre Galleries, Nov-Dec 1928 along with the original drawing on silk.
 
M009 - Cymbals
Edition of 75

M010 - [The Dance of Spring aka Dance Band]
Courtesy of Frederick Baker, Inc.
Edition of 75

  M011 - (Spanish) Donkey Dance
Edition of 75
L:  watercolor and pencil (Courtesy of Gerrish Fine Art);  R: color etching

M012 -The Drummer (pre-1924)
Courtesy of the Bridget McDonnell Gallery
Edition of 10
Note: Exhibited at the Lefevre Galleries, Nov-Dec 1928.  A copy is in the collection of the British Museum. 

M013 - Drummer Boy
Edition Unknown
L: uncolored etching; R: colored etching

M014 - Duet
Edition Unknown

M015 - English Valve Horns
Edition Unknown
L: uncolored etching (Courtesy of the Goldmark Gallery); R: colored etching

M016 - Flute
Edition of 75
Note: Part of a series that includes Banjo and Bongoes.

M017 - [The Flute Player]
Edition of 75

M018 - [Harp Player]
Edition Unknown
Personal Collection (thanks to Gerrish Fine Art)
Note: I have not been able to locate a copy of the finished etching.  What is shown is the front and back sides of the original watercolor and pencil drawing for this print.

M019 - The Heavy Instrument or The Big Stone
Edition Unknown
Personal Collection (thanks to Gerrish Fine Art)
Note: I have not been able to locate a copy of the finished etching.  What is shown is the  original watercolor and pencil drawing for this print.

M020 - Indian Dilruba
Edition of 75

M021 - Inside the Palace of Pong-Lai (1928)
Edition of 100
L: uncolored etching; R: colored etching (Courtesy of the New England Art Exchange)
Note: Exhibited at the Lefevre Galleries, Nov-Dec 1928 with the original watercolor on silk and with an aquatint version of the print; in Fine Prints of the Year (1928).  A copy is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

M022 - Jazz I
Edition Unknown

M023 - Jazz II
Edition of 75

M024 - [Lady Playing Maracas]
Edition of 70 [75?]

M025 -Indian Sarode
Edition Unknown

M026 - Music in the Garden
Edition of 75

M027 - [A Musical Quartet]
Edition Unknown

M028 - Musicians (1930)
Edition of 100
Note:  In Fine Prints of the Year (1930).  The watercolor for this print was exhibited at Walter Bull & Sanders, Ltd., Nov. 1931.

M029 - The New Harp
Courtesy of the New England Art Exchange
Edition of 75

M030 - Ode to the Blackthorn (pre-1924)
Edition of 10
Courtesy of the Annex Galleries
Note: Exhibited at the Lefevre Galleries, Nov-Dec 1928.

M031 - Old English Horn Tibiteau Cherry (aka Yellow Horn)
Edition of 75
L: watercolor and pencil drawing (Personal Collection thanks to Gerrish Fine Arts)
R: color etching (Courtesy of the New England Art Exchange)

M032 - Organ Lesson
Edition Unknown

M033 - Pastoral Music
Edition of 75

M034 - The Sitar Player
Edition of 75

M035 - The Song of the Pineapple
Edition Unknown

M036 - Springtime at Loyang (1929)
Edition of 100
Note: Exhibited at the Lefevre Galleries, Nov-Dec 1928 as a trial proof; in Fine Prints of the Year (1929).  A finished proof is in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum along with four color blocks and the engraved copper plate.

M037 - [Strange Instruments]
Courtesy of Paramour Fine Arts
Edition of 75

M038 - [Three women, one playing a zither(?)]
Edition unknown

M039 = [Three women, two looking at pictures of musicians]
Edition unknown
Note: This is a black and white image of a color etching.

M040 - Trumpeter I
Edition of 75

M041 - Trumpeter II
Watercolor and pencil drawing (L: front: R: back)
Personal Collection (thanks to Gerrish Fine Art)

M041 - Trumpeter II
Edition of 75

M042 - Trumpeter III
Edition of 75

M043 - Trumpeter IV
Edition of 75
Note: The title for this print has not been verified and it is possible that it is actually Trumpeter IX or a higher number in the series.
 
M044 - Trumpeter V
Edition of 75

M045 - Trumpeter VI
Edition of 75
L: watercolor and pencil drawing (Personal Collection thanks to Gerrish Fine Arts)
R: color etching

M046 - Trumpeter VII
Edition of 75
Note: A version exists with the woman wearing a red dress.

M047 - Trumpeter VIII
Edition of 75
Note: A version exists with the woman wearing a purple dress.

M048 - [Two female musicians, one with harp, one with tambourine]
Edition of 75

M049 - [Two Women Playing Exotic Instruments - stringed horn and drum]
Edition of 75

M050 - [Woman with banjo]
Edition of 75

M051 - [Woman with Sitar]
Edition of 75

M052 - Yang Kuei-Fei  (pre-1929)
(aka The Rainbow Skirt and The Feathered Jacket)
Edition of 100
L:  watercolor on silk; R: colored etching
Note: Both were exhibited at the Lefevre Galleries, Nov-Dec 1928.

There are, as yet, no known prints corresponding to the following Lord paintings:

Ancient Models of Hydraulus
Courtesy of Gerrish Fine Art
(watercolor and pencil)

 Drummers (pre-1932)
(watercolor)
Note: Exhibited at Walter Bull & Sanders, Ltd., Nov. 1931.   This is possibly an alternate name for "Drums of the House of Toba" shown below.

Drums of the House of Toba (pre-1929)
Personal Collection (thanks to Gerrish Fine Art)
(watercolor on silk)
Note: Exhibited at the Lefevre Galleries, Nov-Dec 1928.

[Horn Player - 2 Curved Tusks]
Personal Collection (thanks to Gerrish Fine Art)
(watercolor and pencil)

[Large Trumpet]
(Pencil drawing)

Shell Trumpet
Personal Collection (thanks to Gerrish Fine Art)
(watercolor and pencil)

The Squeezeboxes
Courtesy of the Goldmark Gallery
(watercolor and pencil)

Strolling Players (pre-1932)
(watercolor drawing)
Note: Exhibited at Walter Bull & Sanders, Ltd., Nov. 1931.

Symphony in Purple and Blue
Courtesy of the Goldmark Gallery
(watercolor and pencil)

The Xylophone Player
Courtesy of the Goldmark Gallery
(watercolor and pencil)

If a reader is aware of a missing Lord print or painting of a musician (or a correct title), please let me know and I will add it to the list.  I would very much welcome any further information about Elyse Lord’s life and career that readers might have to share.  In particular, Dame Laura Knight did a portrait etching of Lord that I have not been able to locate and that I would be very curious to see in order to put a face to her name.

Gravestone for Thomas Ashe Lord and Elyse Lord
Courtesy of http://www.gravestonephotos.com

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